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Self Configuring Modular Robot (Chapter Cover)

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Chapter 103 - Self Configuring Modular Robot[]

The Tram led from the tower,

to a low butte studded with the prefab buildings every Clan warrior who's done a tour in a hard-vacuum environment knows-a standard, SLDF prefabricated base facility used for survey and surveillance, dug into the regolith and stone of a mesa.

"A relic, or salvage?" Nelson asked.

"The Terrans put it up for the Rimjobs when Spider Moon was a Rim Worlds Naval base. Anh Cu'ong and the Co-ops liberated it during operations preparing for the Independence War. it's been Coast Guard central since...also has my little sister's 'mansion' since our Grandfather died."

The tram passed rows of spindly structures faced with solar collectors and reflectors, farms of antennae, and more than a few massive radiotelescopes.

"the site 'has' a mansion in that little thing?"

"It's dug in, the surface parts we inherited, there's been renovation since." Patrick said knowingly, "Generations of it, including mining efforts for certain light metallics. Mostly titanium and bauxite, some Oxy cracking, and of course, electrolysis to turn Hydrogen and raw O2 into water."

the tram passed into a decidedly non-star league tunnel entrance, which sealed and opened into a transit station carved into the stone of the mesa's bones.

"this is more advanced than your port facilities in Nha Tranh."

"We use it more." the Duke checked his suit. "Keep your hat handy on the platform." he said, gesturing meaningfully to his helmet, "It's not really considered 'safe' until you've got at least three pressure bulkheads and at least ten meters of sealed stone between you and the outside-leaks still happen."

"You 'use it more'?"

"half a billion permanent residents in the outer and inner system, and this here? this is the capital of the outer system, means traders, prospectors, co-ops and other business all day and all night, so the locks have to be good, and they have to be maintained, and so we got out of the habit of including them in the reports to Tharkad after Alessandro stripped Nha Tranh field for parts near the end of last century."

"more of your 'dark age', quiaff?"

"Yeah. it is. Scavenging for what we ought to be building is a defined example of life in a dark age. Most of Nha Tranh port went to Alarion for the port facilities there, some of it went to Coventry...because they lost the ability to build the stuff new for a few decades."

The corridors were wide, and busy, as the Duke led him down a main street lined with portable stalls that would be the pride of many a merchant casteman.

He stopped and bought them both water, and paid Nelson's 'air tax'.

"Air taxes?"

"The name is evocative, yes?" Duke Patrick said, "Only it's also inaccurate. it's a services fee to pay for upkeep on the life support, and it's local to the station-other places have other ways they fund environmental maintenance. Habitable worlds don't require it, but places like this? absolutely do...your receipt." He handed Nelson a chit with a molecular activated stickyback.

"because it all must be maintained actively, quiaff?"

"Yeah. It does. we're not the Rimjobs here, we don't do slavery. If someone can't pay the tax, we find them work that pays more than the tax, or they run credit until they can find work."

"and if they do not??"

"bad things happen." Patrick stated. "See, there's always something someone can do, so if you have someone who outright refuses to work? they go outside. We let them keep their suit and helmet, but they're sent outside."

"and if unable?"

"We have charities for that-the charities will pay their air tax, until a ticket to the planet can be arranged." they reached a set of lifts and the Duke input a series of codes, followed by letting the machine scan his retina. "See, there's always work to be done."

"A social taboo, quiaff? your work ethic, it is ingrained by...this?"

"Right in one, to the foreigner." Patrick agreed. "There's always work to be done, and even dirty degrading work is superior to idleness until you've paid your dues."


"Retirement." Pat said, "We don't throw people away, Khan Elam."

"You read Phelan Kell's book."

"I did." Pat scowled, "This way."

They entered the lift, and the door closed behind the men.

"There were inaccuracies...nuances, in Kell's work."

"Yeah, but not in 'The Way of the Clans' by Nicholas Kerensky, and not in the copies of your fellow Clans' Remembrances...though there's more than a little legend in there instead of History."

Elam laughed. "Agreed."

The lift reached its destination and opened onto a broad tunnel.

Nelson Elam could see the names engraved in the rock. "How many?" he asked.

"Millions. Everyone who's died for Kowloon since Independence, and there's a gallery for older names near the old entrance to the original mine. You want to see our archive? It's this way."

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